Lack of funding = lack of safety in schools

by Paula Turner

On November 19, 2017, CBC Radio’s Cross Country Check Up discussed Violence in Schools.

There have been several media reports on this topic including an Ottawa teacher, Tony Lamonica, speaking out about his experience of violence on the job. Lamonica’s experience was horrendous and life changing. Violence is not something any person should have to deal with at their place of work.

As I listened to the CBC call in program, I was deeply troubled and I doubt I was alone. The show shed significant light on the consequences of insufficient funding in education. The calls and discussion focused on the issues facing educators, parents, students, and communities when it comes to aggression in schools.

It also highlighted the range of understandings about what constitutes aggression, what should be done about it, which students should/should not be held accountable, and what are the responsibilities of educators, Boards and the government when it comes to solutions.

It is a hot mess.

And, it is a situation that for many staff and students is a daily reality and not ‘new’ news. It is a system wide problem.

Many Educational Assistants have had multiple trips to Emergency rooms in a year; many have to go on sick leave; many have lasting injuries. I have had three trips to the Emergency Room and two other times when I probably should have gone.

I do not hold the students who harmed me responsible for my injuries. I have worked with students identified with special needs wherein aggressive behaviours are one way in which they cope when they have not yet learned the skills to self regulate, or they are unable to learn those skills. In order to teach those skills to a student, I need time to observe what triggers students and try different techniques to help them acquire those skills. That time is rarely available in the system as it is currently funded.

I am not naive: some students, like some people, have control of their behaviours and still harm others. That is one category of alarming behaviour within education systems across the country.

I am looking at this through the lens of special education and I worry that some people are lumping all students into one profile: a purposefully violent person.

Other types of violent incidents are happening on a daily basis for many educators and no one incident can be considered to be representative of the wide range of violence within any one system, or across a province, or certainly across the country.

One caller to the CBC show, Bonnie Dineen, was an Educational Assistant with 20 years of experience. She discussed the issue of not having enough information prior to walking into a classroom.

There is no funding for preplanning meetings for teaching teams. The time needed to get to know the student, their needs and the appropriate supports is not funded in the current model.

A guest on the show, Shelley Hymel, a UBC Education faculty professor, stressed the importance of training and supports that meet the changing needs of students and staff. Hymel stated, “My feeling is that we’re running on an economic model as opposed to a child-focused model”.


This is also, sadly, not news. Education systems have been financially gutted over the past decades to pay for priorities (or errors) of the government. The result is that there are not enough experts or resources or trained professionals to deal with the needs (educational, social, emotional and physical) of students.

There are not enough hands on deck for the number of students with exceptional learning deficits and needs.

The lack of funding means there is a lack of safety in our schools; this has created the crisis for students, educators, families and communities.

We need to listen to people on the front lines and we need to give them the support to effectively do their job and be educators who can support student success, whatever success looks like for individual students. There is no one size fits all model for appropriate supports or ‘success’.

Society and governments owe it to students to create the system where professionals have the time and resources to listen and observe students and create education plans that work for their abilities and needs – not rush from one crisis to another, putting out fires without ever having time to discover the source.

Right now there is insufficient funding in education coupled with outcome expectations which are not meeting the needs of students.

We need to sufficiently fund education systems so that educators can go to work and be safe.

Paula Turner | November 21, 2017 at 9:46 am | Categories: writing | URL:

CUPE applauds Campaign for Public Education’s calls for review and overhaul of funding formula

November 15, 2017

TORONTO – The union representing 55,000 education workers in Ontario is applauding the Campaign for Public Education’s (CPE) latest effort to secure a review and overhaul of the province’s outdated funding formula.

“CUPE has been calling for a review and overhaul of the funding formula for years,” said Terri Preston, who chairs CUPE’s education sector in Ontario. “The analysis provided by CPE adds to the growing body of evidence that this is urgent. It’s clear that the current funding formula is inadequate to meet the needs of students, communities, and education workers.”

A funding formula reliant mainly on head counts and based on the notion that schools are just a collection of classrooms will never meet the needs of students. Students and parents live this reality every day, and CUPE’s custodial and maintenance workers have long pointed this out.

“The lack of funding for maintenance and infrastructure repair creates cascading problems,” said Vern Andrus, trades representative for CUPE’s education sector workers, and a head custodian with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. “When we have to close down part of an aging building because we don’t have the funds to maintain or repair it, students get squeezed, and the learning environment suffers. When maintenance and infrastructure budgets are stripped of funds to pay for other vital but underfunded programs – like mandated small class sizes or full-day kindergarten – kids suffer. We know very well that the physical infrastructure of schools contributes to the learning environment of the child.”

“A formula that is averaged out across school boards without regard for differences in geography, demographics and building age can never be responsive to the diverse needs of students in Ontario,” said Preston. “CPE has pointed out that by the end of 2019 the deferred maintenance budget total will have increased yet again. They’ve also pointed out the glaring absence of a provincial standard for building maintenance. It’s just not sustainable. We support in particular CPE’s call for a complete review of the funding formula in every respect, and their call for an increase of the operations and maintenance budget by at least 8.7%, to meet a consistent province-wide standard.”

CUPE represents 55,000 workers in the education sector, across all four school board systems (English and French, Catholic and public), including educational assistants, early childhood educators, custodians, tradespeople, school administrators, payroll and IT clerks, library technicians and more.

For more information:

Andrea Addario, CUPE Communications, 416-738-4329


Gilles Bouffard

CUPE – Ontario Regional Office

80 Commerce Valley Drive East

Markham, ON   L3T 0B2

Telephone: 905-739-3999 Ext. 275

Fax: 905-739-4001


What is it going to take before the powers that be listen to what we have been saying for at least the past three years and do what is necessary to make our education system what it needs to be for our children?

“Between 1995-96, when the Harris government was first elected, and 1998-99, the first year of the new education funding formula, the Conservative government cut a total of $1.5 billion from education. In today’s dollars, that amount equals $2.2 billion”.  Although the Liberal government has made some increases to education funding since then, the increased needs in the classroom have well surpassed the funding provided.

“When enrolment, inflation, the cost of new programs and the element of catch-up reflected in education system salaries and benefits are considered, education funding in 2017-2018 is roughly equivalent to the level recommended by the Rozanski Task Force Report on education funding in 2002. While that is a positive sign, it essentially reflects no progress at all in addressing the fundamental funding issues built into the base funding formula introduced for the 1998-99 school year”.  

Those of us who work in the education sector will tell you, the schools of 2002 are not the schools of 2017-2018. The same issues we are seeing in society are magnified in the classroom. Increased numbers of those living in poverty, an increase in mental illness and addictions, an increase in the number of people living with autism, and so on.

The education funding formula and the ‘Tier System’ used by School Boards to determine which students ‘qualify’ for the support of a Special Ed. Assistant needs a complete overhaul. The reality is that a Special Ed. Assistant will be assigned one student who qualifies for support but then are also assigned 5 or 6 additional students who require support but do not meet the criteria for support. These students may have ADHD, learning disabilities, mental health issues, or simply have not yet developed the ability to control their impulses.

Many of our Special Education Assistants divide their day between multiple classrooms. Every minute of their day is scheduled to be supporting students. Coffee breaks and lunch breaks are often missed because there is not enough E.A. staff to cover for them. In some cases, students with special needs are left on their own for periods of time because there is nobody available to support them.

Many students, some with special needs and some without, are erupting violently because their needs are not being met. But violence in the classroom is just a symptom of the bigger issue: inadequate funding for Special Ed. Assistant staffing, inadequate funding for smaller class sizes, and inadequate funding for the professional development and specialized training of educators and support staff.


Vicky Evans,

President, CUPE Local 4148



Quotes on the funding formula were taken from the ETFO document titled ‘ETFO: 7 Recommendations to Fix Ontario’s Education Funding Formula’

Every Child Matters: September 30 is Orange Shirt Day


September 30 is Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day acknowledges the harm that Canada’s residential school system has done to generations of indigenous families and their communities. It affirms our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.

Orange Shirt Day opens a conversation about the legacies of the residential schools — a conversation all Canadians must have. It is a day for survivors to know that they matter. It is a day to acknowledge the past and commit to a more inclusive future.

Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s own experience at residential school. On the first day of school, her shiny new orange shirt, given to her by her grandmother, was taken away from her. Phyllis organized the first Orange Shirt Day in 2013.

The Aboriginal Council of CUPE Ontario urges CUPE members to show support and encourage participation in Orange Shirt Day this September 30. Participation is very easy: wear an orange shirt, and tell people why.

On minimum wage debate, analysts are missing the forest for the trees



SEPTEMBER 10, 2017

Investment analysts need to ask some hard questions when business groups say the planned increase in Ontario’s minimum wage may force companies to raise prices on consumer goods and slash jobs.

In recent analyst calls held by Metro Inc. and Loblaw Cos. Ltd., executives indicated that planned minimum-wage increases in Alberta and Ontario would add significantly to labour expenses and put pressure on the industry in 2018. Both companies are committed to mitigating those impacts by accelerating efficiencies and achieving cost reductions, but the take-away for analysts was that the retail industry is facing a significant cost increase in the short term.

Unfortunately, that echoes the prevailing view among many on Bay Street and in executive suites across the country – that workers are exclusively a cost to the business. That may be why investment analysts walk away from these quarterly calls only having heard – and only having asked, for that matter – about the cost side of the equation.

The other side of the equation warrants much more attention: how paying higher wages and improving workplace practices can be an investment in the business.

There is strong evidence that paying workers more, offering meaningful training and promotion opportunities and providing predictable schedules and hours – in short, the type of labour-law reforms now on the table in Ontario – can result in better business outcomes. Businesses that implement a decent work strategy can benefit from more loyal, hard-working and productive employees. They can realize productivity gains, higher retention and lower turnover, and ultimately better financial performance.

For example, research conducted by MIT professor Zeynep Ton found that companies that nurture their employees and pursued a good jobs strategy achieved improved operational execution, ultimately resulting in higher sales and profits in the retail stores that she studied.

Similarly, a study by the Boston Consulting Group found that over a 10-year period, companies that appeared at least three times on the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list outperformed the S&P 500 by 99 percentage points.

In Ontario, a recently formed group of businesses provide living proof that decent work can pay off. The Better Way to Build the Economy Alliance (BWA) is a group of employers that support decent work and are benefiting from greater productivity and profitability for their businesses while at the same time improving job and income security for their workers. These employers will be coming together to share their experiences on Sept. 12 in Toronto at a conference hosted by the Centre for Labour Management Relations and the Better Way Alliance.

We will be there to provide a perspective from the growing number of investors in Canada and around the world that are recognizing the business benefits associated with decent work. We’ll be speaking about why investors and investment analysts need to start seeing the forest and not just the trees when considering the implications of labour-law reforms.

To do that, on the next round of quarterly analyst calls, let’s ask how companies intend to take advantage of the positive opportunities afforded by Ontario’s Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act. How will they capture increases in consumer spending as a result of the boost to the minimum wage? How will they seek to deploy their employees in ways that will improve their customer-service scores? How will they invest in their workers to improve internal promotion and retention rates? How will they manage the short-term increases in labour expenses to make them more competitive in the long run?

These kinds of questions will give us a much more accurate picture of how companies are productively and successfully managing their work forces. They will also help to communicate to corporate executives that investors support innovative strategies that build long-term value and that we understand the benefits of fairer workplaces and a more equitable economy.

We will not let the virus of hate spread.


Hate crawled up from the sewers of Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday and flooded the streets with thousands of white men baring torches and chanting unbelievable hatred.

Many thought we were past such horrors, that the days of torches and pitch forks held high by angry white men screaming hate were gone for good. We might have hoped that the racist haters that still exist understand that this kind of venom just won’t be tolerated by most people in our society.

With Friday’s rally of violent white supremacists this hope died. What happened in Charlottesville was an overt manifestation of what is experienced by millions of First Nations, Black, south Asian, Hispanic and most non-white people everyday. What is exceptional about this moment, is that there is a President in the US who has been fanning the flames of racist hatred.

None of us can afford to stay silent. The future of our society is at stake. And we cannot be fooled into believing this is a problem only south of the border.

We have already seen branches of the so called “Proud Boys,” attack a First Nations’ rally in Canada. Affiliates of the white supremacists behind Charlottesville are organizing in Canada. Their propaganda has been found postered in neighbourhoods all across the country.

It is true that we are living through difficult times because of increasing economic inequality. Many working people here and in the United States are losing their jobs, being forced to take low-paid and precrecarious work, struggling to make ends meet.

It is this vulnerability that racist haters, white supremists and neo-nazies are trying to exploit to pit us against each other.

We cannot let this happen.

Let’s be clear, it is not racialized people that are taking jobs away from working people or responsible for the increase in part-time, temporary low-wage jobs. It is the largely white corporate elite who keep shipping jobs off shore so they can exploit other racialized workers in sweatshops. They are the ones who rake in hundreds of billions in profits while cutting jobs, privatizing the things we all own in common and refusing to pay a living wage.

We must all rise together against racism and hate. It is only together that we can truly address the inequalities in our society.



Workplace laws need further changes: Horwath

The Changing Workplaces Review that kicked off an overdue discussion on raising wages was supposed to recognize how work has changed in Ontario. Sadly, it didn’t.

Proposed changes to the Labour Relations and Employment Standards Acts aren’t good enough, writes Andrea Horwath.
Proposed changes to the Labour Relations and Employment Standards Acts aren’t good enough, writes Andrea Horwath.  (CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  

I publicly committed to a $15 minimum wage in early 2016, and since then, the NDP has been proud to join together with the advocacy groups and unions that led the unrelenting push for a $15 wage.

Now, it’s up to Queen’s Park to do the right thing for workers. That means making sure wage increases actually happen — but it also means doing so much more to help the growing number of people in unstable work build stability.

The fact is, the Changing Workplaces Review that kicked off this overdue discussion was supposed to recognize how work has changed in Ontario. Sadly, it didn’t. Now, the proposed changes to the Labour Relations and Employment Standards Acts aren’t good enough.

Less stable work — like part-time and contract work — is quickly on the rise. Since Kathleen Wynne became premier, the number of people working more than one part-time job has shot up 20 per cent.

But the changes now on the table fall short of levelling the playing field for those workers. The bill is riddled with inconsistencies, giving some rights to some, not to others.

The NDP is now touring to hear feedback on this bill. It’s clear the bill fails to give temporary, part-time and contract workers more stability — and fails many other workers in other ways. After we’ve heard what people across the province have to say, I’ll be tabling a full package of meaningful amendments.

I can tell you now, there are a few issues my amendments will definitely address.

First, I believe workers with unstable, part-time and contract work should have access to paid sick and personal emergency days. It’s not right to force a person to choose between taking care of their health, or protecting their budget for the month.

Yet, those workers are restricted to just two days per year — meant to cover everything from illness to surgery, a flooded basement at home or a sick child.

I’ll be fighting for a reasonable number of paid days to cover illness and personal emergencies.

The bill also gives three weeks’ vacation only to those with five years of seniority in a job. That’s too long to wait, given the changed nature of work.

And it’s absolutely unacceptable that this bill doesn’t do more to provide support and flexibility for victims of domestic violence. An Ontario NDP motion over a year ago called for those escaping intimate partner abuse and assault to have access to 10 days of paid leave, flexible work arrangements and additional reasonable unpaid leave, if needed. Survivors may need time to get medical treatment both for their physical and mental health, to seek victims’ services or social services, to relocate to a shelter or safe home, and to participate in legal proceedings.

That motion passed unanimously. Then was ignored — left out of the new bill. That’s unacceptable.

My amendments will also recognize that workers in every workplace should have the right to choose to form a union. A union card is a ticket into the middle class, a promise of fairness and great stabilizing factor in the lives of Ontario workers.

Yet card-check certification, union successor rights and first-contract arbitration — all things that help workers to form a union and obtain their first, fair collective agreement — are limited to just some workers in some sectors.

That’s not good enough.

Workers and families deserve more stability. This is our opportunity. So let’s do something about it.

Andrea Horwath is leader of Ontario’s NDP.